Treat your customers rudely and practice racial discrimination in some parts of the city, and you may lose some business. Do the same in Durant, and you may have a boycott and threats of legal action on your hands.

That’s the lesson the owners of Golden Era Arts on Washington Street learned this winter when some disgruntled neighborhood residents staged a protest against what they considered to be three years of mistreatment by Golden Era’s management.

Washington Street resident Kelly Rose, who organized a December 12 picket in front of Golden Era, said she first became upset when the store refused to honor a gift certificate her daughter had received on her 14th birthday.

“She used part of it, then went in to use the rest a year and a half later, and they refused to accept it, even though there was no expiration date,” said Rose.

“I tried numerous times to talk to the owner about this, but no one would return my calls”.

Bernice Pull and her family joined the picket line because of an incident that occurred last year, involving her two daughters — one of whom is Asian-American and the other of European ancestry. The girls had entered Golden Era together, said Pull, and were looking for the school and art supplies when a shop employee suddenly ordered the Asian youngster to leave. Even though the clerk never accused the child of any wrong-doing, the implication was that she was planning to shoplift, Pull said, and nothing was said to her white stepsister.

“My daughter was very upset by this whole thing. She came home crying,” said Pull. “It zapped her confidence for a long time.”

Although only the two families participated in the picket, Rose carried a clipboard, which had a list of written complaints from other customers about store rudeness and refusals to exchange faulty merchandise.

“A lot of people had a story to tell, and everybody wanted somebody to do some-thing, so I decided to organize a boycott and picket,” Rose said. “Many people said they were already quietly boycotting the store because they didn’t like the way they’d been treated.”

Rose also contacted the Durant Merchants and Professionals Association, and last month Association President Joshua Henry stepped in to mediate.

On December 14 Henry arranged a meeting between Rose and Golden Era co-owner Jordan Hines.

“We met at Daisy’ for lunch,” said Henry. “I took a third-party role. We discussed all the problems, and he (Hines) was very apologetic. I believe we resolved some of the issues.”

In an interview in his office at Golden Era, Hines admitted that the Golden Era staff had made a number of mistakes, and said he is sorry.